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Long-established fact: Jurisprudence deems Grace Poe a natural-born Filipino

01:00 AM January 14, 2016

In “The SolGen turns to wizardry,” Opinion, 1/11/16), lawyers Cristina Montes and Jemy Gatdula said that the comment filed in the Supreme Court by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe was replete with speculations and conjectures. Taking the OSG to task for its “irrelevant” submission—that Poe’s “features” being indisputably “Filipino,”  the “likelihood” of her parents being  Filipinos was strong—the duo debunked the malarkey:  “(T)he Constitution does not require likelihood; it requires a fact: Is the candidate a natural-born citizen?”

The fact is, by dint of prevailing jurisprudence, Poe is already deemed a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. This is not based on a mere “likelihood” or speculation but on a settled “law of the land.” The 2001 en banc case of Bengzon vs. HRET has made this abundantly clear: If a citizen has never since birth undergone naturalization proceedings under any existing law, he/she is deemed “necessarily” a natural-born citizen! That is so because there are only two types of Filipino citizenship, namely, natural-born or naturalized.  It can only be black or white—no shades of gray in between! That is basic logic. Secondly, if such citizen loses his/her Filipino citizenship by becoming a citizen of another country, the law allowing him/her to “reacquire” his/her Filipino citizenship has been interpreted to mean allowing him/her “to recover or return to his original status” as a natural-born citizen.

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That is no “appeal to emotion”; it is not argumentum ad misericordiam.  It is an argument based on what the Supreme Court has already enunciated in no uncertain terms. And until the Court says otherwise, that is the present law of the land. So then, can Poe be evicted from the Senate (and then snookered from pursuing the presidency) in case the high court eventually changes its mind and agrees with the three dissenting justices who sat in the SET?

With due respect, when the Supreme Court changed its mind about the wisdom of the “Aguinaldo doctrine” (where it had ruled that reelection ipso facto wipes out a public official’s administrative offenses committed during his/her previous term), it categorically said that the Court of Appeals did not err in applying that doctrine since it was then the prevailing legal regime. Its abandonment cannot work to the prejudice of pending cases where that doctrine is being invoked.

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Mutatis mutandis, it can also be rightfully said that the SET majority did not err in deeming Poe a natural-born Filipino since it was well in accord with the still-controlling Bengzon doctrine. Any reversal of that doctrine can only have “prospective” effect, i.e., on foundlings found in the Philippines thereafter! Imagine if sitting judges or justices who were also foundlings/adopted (and we personally know some of them!) were dismissed from the judiciary themselves should such a new ruling be made applicable retrospectively! But then again, the obvious problem is, will that egregious discrimination really be a good law?

—STEPHEN L. MONSANTO, Monsanto Law Office, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, [email protected]

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TAGS: Citizenship, Elections 2016, Grace Poe
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